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Hawaii Second-Degree Murder

Hawaii recognizes several forms of criminal homicide including: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. This article provides a brief overview of Hawaii's second-degree murder law.

What's the Difference Between First and Second Degree Murder?

In Hawaii, first and second-degree murder are both defined as the act of intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person. However, first-degree murder can only occur under specific circumstances while second-degree murder acts as a catchall for all other killings that are committed intentionally or knowingly.

First-degree murder in Hawaii can only occur when the offender intentionally and knowingly causes the death of:

  • More than one person in the same or separate incidents
  • A law enforcement officer, judge, or prosecutor arising out of the performance of official duties
  • A person the offender knows is a witness in a criminal prosecution and the killing is related to the person's status as a witness
  • A person by a hired killer (here both the person hired and the person responsible for hiring the killer are liable)
  • A person while the defendant was imprisoned
  • A person who the defendant has been restrained by court order from contacting, threatening, or physically abusing
  • A person who is being protected by a police officer ordering the offender to leave the premises of that protected person, or
  • A person the offender knows is a witness in a family court proceeding and the killing is related to the person's status as a witness

Hawaii's Second Degree Murder Law

Code Section

Hawaii Revised Statutes section 707-701.5: Murder in the Second Degree

What's Prohibited?

Intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person, except for those killings that qualify as first-degree murder (to read Hawaii's first-degree murder law see section 707-701).


Second-degree murder (or attempted second-degree murder) is a felony offense that can be punished by life in prison. Harsher sentences will be imposed if the court finds that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity, or that the offender was previously convicted of first or second-degree murder.

Murder Reduced to Manslaughter

Generally, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another with malice, while manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without malice. However, in certain situations a charge for murder (either first or second degree) can be reduced to the lesser crime of manslaughter. In Hawaii, the charge can be reduced if the killing was committed under the influence of an extreme mental or emotional disturbance.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Hawaii's second-degree murder law contact a local criminal defense lawyer.

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